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Building Terms

Whilst we endeavour to avoid jargon in our reports, the use of some technical terms is unavoidable.
However, if any part of the report we provide is unclear, please contact the surveyor who will be
delighted to assist further. The list below is very limited relative to the full extent of building terms in
existence, having been deliberately restricted to those which this particular practice employs in its survey

Addition A projecting structure, or wing, which is part of the original building rather than a subsequent

Airbrick A perforated brick built into a wall for providing ventilation. Used, for instance, to ventilate the
underside of timber ground floors, blocked fireplaces or a roof space.

Arch A curved structure built to distribute weight over an opening in a wall.

Architrave A moulding around a doorway or window opening. It usually covers the joints between the
frame and the wall finish, thus hiding any shrinkage gaps which may occur.

Arris The sharp external edge where where two surfaces meet at a point.

Asbestos Material used in the past for insulation and fire protection. Can be a health hazard. Specialist
advice should be sought if asbestos is found.

Asbestos Cement Cement mixed with up to 15% asbestos fibre as reinforcement. Typically used in
roofing, rainwater goods, fire-proof linings and various other claddings and linings. It is fragile and will
not usually bear heavy weights. Hazardous fibres may be released if cut or drilled.

Asphalt Black, tar-like substance, designed to be impervious to moisture. Used on flat roofs and floors.

Back Addition The narrower part of a building, or wing, which extends rearwards beyond the “main“
structure, being an original feature rather than a subsequent extension. This is sometimes called an
“outrigger“ in different parts of the country.

Back Gutter The lining and flashing arrangement at the back of a chimney stack (on the upslope side)
to divert rainwater away from the stack.

Bargeboard Timber, sometimes decorative, placed along the verge of a roof at a gable end.

Balanced Flue A “room sealed flue“, normally serving gas appliances, which allows air to be drawn to
the appliance from outside whilst also allowing fumes to escape.

Baluster A post or vertical pillar supporting a handrail or parapet rail.

Balustrade A row of balusters, or other infilling, below a handrail on a landing, stair or parapet.

Batten Thin strips of timber, commonly used to support roof tiles or slates.

pivoted or fixed sashes. often timber. Cames The lead bars in leaded light windows. over an opening such as a fireplace or bay.Bellcast Thickening out of render. to form a drip to deflect water. diagonal or garden wall bond. above the damp-proof course. Buttress A brick or stone support to a wall designed to resist lateral movement. or stone or concrete copings. Bitumen Black. Also known as "haunching". Brace Diagonal support in a timber door. which needs frequent emptying. Cavity tray A moisture barrier inserted above a window or door opening to deflect moisture that transfers across the outer leaf of brickwork back to the outer face rather than letting it cross the cavity at lintel level causing dampness internally. Benching Shaped concrete slope beside drainage channel within an inspection chamber. Bond The regular arrangements of bricks. Bracing The arrangement of timbers spanning across roof trusses to provide lateral stability Bressumer A lintel. The principal types of bond used in domestic construction are English. Birdsmouth A joint or notch cut into a timber (typically a rafter) where it connects with another timber. Binder A length of wood used to provide cross bracing to a set of roof trusses. similar to asphalt. rat-trap. Cavity Wall Traditional modern method of building external walls of houses comprising two leaves of brick or blockwork usually separated by a gap ("cavity") of about 5Omm (2 inches). Cesspool (cesspit) A simple method of drainage comprising a watertight holding tank. Casement A window composed of hinged. Cement Fillet A weatherproofing joint between roof slopes and abutting brickwork such as walls or chimneys. Used in sealants. sticky substance. In many cases. in a curved shape. parapet or chimney. Not to be confused with "septic tank". blocks or stones in a wall so that the units may be joined together. the lintel itself acts as a cavity tray though this arrangement is not always appropriate. Usually found at the base of a wall. over a wall. stretcher. . Capping The weather-proof finish formed with tiles. Flemish. mineral felts and damp-proof courses. header. Also describes the roof member spanning across ceiling joists to provide improved support.

doors etc. Various alternative methods are available for damp-proofing existing walls including "electro-osmosis" and chemical injection. Cruck Beams Pairs of curved timbers in period buildings which run from ground level and meet at the ridge. Combination Boiler A central heating boiler that also provides hot water “instantaneously“ on demand. timber or metal jutting out from a wall to support a weight above. Creasing Projecting course of tiles to a wall or chimney to prevent rain from running down the face of the brickwork. The top edge is finished with a Dado Rail. Cupola A dome or lantern shaped feature built on top of a roof. Absence. Cowl A terminal to a flue pipe to aid discharge of gases and exclude the weather. a type of cornice. Coping/Coping Stone Usually stone or concrete laid on top of a wall as a decorative finish and designed to stop rainwater soaking into the wall. Damp-Proof Membrane Horizontal layer of impervious material (usually polythene or bitumen) incorporated into floors or slabs. . originally designed to provide protection to the wall. Can also include a moulding at the top of an outside wall designed to project and throw raindrops clear of the wall. and lateral dampness penetrating around windows. Coving Curved junction between wall and ceiling ie. hot water cylinders etc. PVC. Damp-Proof Course Layer of impervious material (bitumen felt. and also covering the area most likely to be affected by rising damp. removal or weakening can lead to roof spread. Dado The bottom one metre or so of wall clad with timber. which is joined to opposing rafters at a level above that of the wall plates. usually within a pressurised system.Chase To cut into plaster. designed to restrain opposing roof slopes. brick. floors and (with Formica or melamine surface) furniture and kitchen units. Chips of wood compressed and glued into sheet form. to receive cables and pipes. brickwork etc. Cornice A moulding at the junction between a wall and ceiling. Collar A horizontal tie beam of a roof. Corbel Projection of stone. With this form of boiler there is no need for water storage tanks. Chipboard Often referred to as "particleboard". Cheap method of decking to flat roofs. slate etc) incorporated into a wall and designed to prevent dampness rising up the wall.

knobs.Deathwatch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum). Foundations Normally concrete. fitted to doors and windows. such as between a roof covering and a chimney or wall. Eaves The lower edge of a roof. unventilated areas. Furniture In building terms. form or foundation of brick or stone. Dry Rot (Serpula lacrymans). or a proprietary pipe serving a heat producing appliance such as a central heating boiler. Flaunching A mortar weathering on the top of a chimney stack surrounding the base of the chimney pots to throw off the rain and thus prevent it from saturating the stack. slate etc. the handles. Flashing A sheet cover formed over a joint. Considered to be a fire risk. . Efflorescence Powdery white salts crystallized on the surface of a wall as a result of moisture evaporation. locks etc. Fibreboard Cheap. Flourishes in moist. Normally formed in metal (lead. Extremely serious insect pest that attacks structural timbers. to render it waterproof. often with devastating results. A very serious form of fungus that attacks structural and joinery timbers. used to fill a narrow joint. Flue A smoke duct in a chimney. copper) or cement. used in ceilings or as insulation to attics. zinc. but the spores can survive in dry conditions. often used as a damp proof course in older buildings. usually shallow. lightweight board material of little strength. laid underground as a structural base to a wall. Usually affects old hardwoods with fungal decay already present. cement. Footings Older. In older buildings these may be brick or stone. Engineering Brick Particularly strong and dense type of brick. French Casement A pair of sashes the height of a door and hinged to serve as a door and window. Flemish Bond Brickwork with alternating headers and stretchers in each course. English Bond Brickwork with alternating courses of headers and stretchers. Fillet A thin strip of wood. Dormer A construction with a window that projects from a sloping roof. Flank wall A side wall. Fascia A board fixed to the rafter ends along the roof eaves.

Hip The sloping angle where two roof planes meet to form a ridge. Gutter A channel along the eaves of a roof or the edge of a path for the removal of rainwater. Invert The lowest part of a drain. usually triangular in shape. Jointing The mortar bedding between bricks or stones. plaster. rock etc often following prolonged heavy rain or coastal erosion. Header A brick laid end on.Gable Upper section of a wall. consolidated. Hip Tile A saddle shaped. or it may be cast 'in situ' on the site itself. Jamb Vertical side of a doorway or window. In Situ Describing work done in the place where it is finally required. An access point to a drain comprising a chamber (of brick. Key The roughness of a surface which provides a bond for any application of paint. e. or spaces between laths or wire meshes which provide a grip for plaster.g. clay. at each end of a ridged roof. Hopper Head An open funnel or hopper shaped head at the top of a rain or waste pipe to collect rainwater and/or waste from one or more pipes. Interlocking Tiles Tiles which lock together to form a watertight roof with only minimal lapping. Hygroscopic The ability to absorb moisture from the atmosphere. angular or half round tile fitting over the junction of the roof slopes at a hip. tiles etc. Grout Used for filling the joints between wall and floor tiles. render. Can cause an upward movement of floors or foundations in extreme cases. Joist A timber or steel beam directly supporting a floor or ceiling. Landslip Downhill movement of unstable earth. Hardcore Broken bricks or stone which. . Heave Swelling of clay sub-soil due to the presence of moisture. concrete may be pre-cast off site in sections which are later taken to the position where they are required. Inspection Chamber Commonly called a manhole. but sometimes due to sub-soil having inherently poor cohesion. Knotting A liquid applied to knots in softwood prior to painting to prevent them showing through at a later date. Gully An opening into which rain and waste water are collected before entering the drain. concrete or plastic) with the drainage channel at its base and a removable cover at ground level. are used as a base under floors and patios.

cement (or lime). the sloping roof of which abuts a higher wall. and is still very common in Victorian housing. Louvre Slats laid at an angle incorporated into a door or window. LPG Liquid Petroleum Gas or Propane. Matchboard A board that has a groove cut into one edge and a tongue cut into the other so they fit tightly together (we use this term to describe a type of door found in some period buildings). Ogee A specific shape where a concave arc flows into a convex arc. is usually formed in cast iron. tiles and other coverings. Lintel A horizontal beam over a door or window opening usually carrying the load of the wall above. Mastic A generic term for any sealant used in the building process. braced and framed but all combinations are found. MDF Medium density fibreboard. usually providing an upper floor of useable space within a roof structure. A serious insect pest mainly confined to the south-east of England. Lath Any base for plasterwork. and water used to join stones. blocks or bricks. Often lintels can be partially or completely hidden from view. which can totally destroy the structural strength of wood. Mezzanine A floor between the ground and first floors. An ogee gutter has particular profile. Mullion Vertical bar dividing individual lights in a window. Can be hinged to allow ventilation/light. Lining The wood finish to a window or door jamb. Lap The overlap of slates.Lantern Light A roof light constructed like a lantern with fixed and/or opening glazing. typically thin wooden strips or expanded metal. The strongest design will be ledged. and for pointing and general filling. Available to serve gas appliances in areas without mains gas. Newel Post supporting a staircase handrail at top and bottom. often accessed off a half landing. . Lean-to A structure. the central pillar of a winding spiral staircase. Ledged A method of door construction whereby the vertical boards are fixed together with horizontal members (ledges). Mansard A roof made with slopes of different pitches. Longhorn Beetle (Hylotrupes Bajulus). Also. Mortar Mixture of sand. Requires a storage tank.

Purlin Horizontal beam in a roof providing intermediate support to the rafters. normally a window. but is shared by. Pantile A curved roof tile which hooks over adjoining tiles. Parapet Low wall along the edge of a roof or balcony. usually timber. Oversite The finish to the ground surface beneath suspended floors. or extending over the roof slopes above a party or gable wall. Pediment A low pitched gable. stones etc. Plywood Board made from veneers of wood glued with the grain laid at right angles. typical in some 1930 s construction. Parapet Gutter A gutter behind a parapet usually provided with a flexible metal or other impervious lining. Racking The distortion.Oriel A projecting structure. either a feature of the construction. or tendency to distort. Pier A vertical column of brickwork or other material. Party Wall The wall which separates. Quoin The external angle of a building. Parging Plaster finish to the inside of a chimney flue. Commonly used for ceilings and partition walls. Pitch The angle of slope to a roof. Rail A horizontal part of a door frame or window. forming the carcass of a roof. Rafter A sloping roof beam. or bricks or stone blocks forming that angle. adjoining properties. laterally as in changing a rectangle to a non-rectangular parallelogram. used to strengthen the wall or to support a weight. Pointing Outer edge of mortar joint between bricks. . Oversailing A projecting course of brickwork. sloping. or resulting from structural movement. PVCu (uPVC) Unplasticized polyvinyl chloride. Plinth The projecting base of a wall. Plasterboard Sandwich of plaster between paper. Raked Pitched. Used in window frames and replacement eaves.

Rough Cast A rough render finish to external walls. RSJ Rolled Steel Joist. and liquids running off to a water course or soakaway. Settlement Downward movement resulting from failure of the components of the building.Relieving Arch An additional arch over a lintel. Shingles Small rectangular tiles of wood (often cedar) used on roofs instead of tiles. Septic Tank Private drainage installation whereby sewage is collected into a chamber and decomposes through the action of bacteria. and this can show as cracking and/or distortion in walls. Shakes can appear quite dramatic. . but strength is not always impaired. Reveal The side or top faces of a window or door opening. either internally or externally. normally the foundations. with remaining solids requiring removal periodically. Ridge The highest part or apex of a roof where two slopes meet. Sewer A large. Retaining Wall A wall built to hold back a bank of soil. which collect the effluent from various drains. slates etc. Riser The vertical part of a step or stair. usually timber or PVCu. Shake A naturally occurring crack in timber. underground pipe or drain used for conveying waste water and sewage. sometimes with pebbledash or other textured finish. Sometimes also used to face walls. Shiplap Horizontal external boarding. All properties settle to some extent. Sash The frame of a window that holds the glass. Screed Final smooth finish of a solid floor. usually cement or concrete. Sarking Felt used as an underlining to a roof. Ridge Tile A specially shaped angular or half round tile for covering and making weather-tight the ridge of a roof. the drains being the responsibility of the land owners. Render Smooth or rough cast cement or lime based covering to a wall. The Local Authority is usually responsible for the sewers. Rising Damp Moisture soaking up a wall from the ground by capillary action. Very often minor settlement is not of great significance to the building as a whole.

below ground to take drainage from rainwater pipes or land drains and allow it to disperse.. Skylight A window set into a roof slope.. usually to a purlin. beam. Soaker Piece of flexible metal fitted to interlock with slates or tiles and make a watertight joint between a wall and a roof or at a hip or valley. filled with broken stones etc. Tie Bar Metal bar passing through a wall. String Course A course of brickwork that projects beyond the face of an external wall. or walls. This occurs where the ceilings are set at a level higher than the tops of the external walls. Stop End The end piece of a gutter. String The sloping board to which the steps of a staircase are attached. Tingles Strips of lead or other metal used to hold slipped slates in position. Strut A support. Soldier Course A horizontal course of bricks set on end over a window or door opening. Stop Cock A valve on a gas or water supply pipe which is used to cut off the supply. . Sub-Soil Soil lying immediately below the topsoil. concrete etc. eaves or other feature of a building. Soil Pipe A vertical pipe that conveys sewage to the drains. Soffit The underside of an arch. Its upper end it usually vented above the eaves. Flashings are used over the soakers at a joint against a wall or chimney. usually due to the freezing and expansion of trapped water (frost damage). in an attempt to brace a structure suffering from structural instability. being the plastered underside of the principal roof rafters. normally lateral. Spall Splitting of masonry. Stud Wall Lightweight wall construction comprising a framework of timber faced with plaster.Skeiling The raked (angled) part of a ceiling sometimes found at the perimeter of a top floor room. Stretcher A brick or block laid lengthways. staircase. Soakaway A pit. plasterboard or other finish. tiles. Subsidence Downward movement resulting from failure in the ground.

Torching Mortar applied on the underside of roof tiles or slates to help prevent moisture penetration. or around a dormer window or skylight. Waste Pipe A pipe from a wash hand basin. . Woodworm Colloquial term for beetle infestation. stronger foundation is placed beneath the original. sink or bath to carry away the waste water into the drains. laid over the rafters and beneath the tiles and battens. Transom Horizontal bar of wood or stone across a window or top of door. Tread The horizontal part of a step or stair. Wall Plate Timber normally fixed on top of a wall to receive floor joists or roof rafters. Valley Gutter Horizontal or sloping channel. Underlining A lining of felt. Wall Tie Usually a piece of metal bedded into the inner and outer leaves of a cavity wall to provide a physical connection between the two. usually intended to mean Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium punctatum). Not to be confused with the more serious dry rot. or similar. roof or floor. usually lead or tile lined. Not necessary when a roof is underlined with felt.). PVC. for example a roof hatch or stairwell. Underpinning Method of strengthening weak foundations whereby a new. The wood is attacked by the larvae of the beetle. Verge The edge of the roof. at the internal intersection between two roof slopes. Weephole A small drain hole or gap in brickwork formed to allow the escape of water. Truss A prefabricated triangular framework of timbers used in most modern roof constructions. Weatherboard A board fixed externally to the bottom of a door to exclude driving rain. to provide a second line of defence to a roof against weather penetration. Wet Rot (Coniophora puteana et al. Decay of timber due to damp conditions. Trimmed Joist Cut joist where an opening is formed in a ceiling. by far the most frequently encountered insect attack in structural and joinery timbers. especially over a gable.